FATE WORLD TOUR – REVIEW OF “WORLDS ON FIRE” PT. 2

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Hello! Dave Joria of Tangent Artists here with the fourth stop on the Fate World Tour.

Part 1 – Worlds Take Flight
Part 2 – Worlds Rise Up
Part 3 – Worlds on Fire I

Today, we’re talking going over the second half of Fate Worlds: World on Fire.” 


KRIEGSZEPPLIN VALKYRIE

Author: Clark Valentine.

Editor: Amanda Valentine.

Artist: Rich Longmore

Elevator Pitch: World War I Flying Aces vs Robots.

Genres & Themes: Pulp; Action; Adventure; Romanticized Warfare; Alt-History / Speculative Fiction; Teamwork; Celebrity; Steampunk; Sci-Fi.

Summary: [“Kriegszepplin Valkyrie” features] a mini-campaign set in a World War One that isn’t quite like you read about in the history books. You play the multinational barnstormers and daring fighter pilots of the era, crewing the biggest airship that ever flew, as you take on the forces of a mad scientist and his army of galvanic automatons. It’s one part pulp, one part Battlestar Galactica, and100% high-flying zeppelin-and-biplanes action, from Evil Hat’s own Clark Valentine.

Mechanics – Sub-System: Fate Core Skill Lists

Mechanics – General:

Aerial Victories – A competitive “mini-game” in which PCs jockey for fame, based on how many planes they shot done (or claim they did).

Dogfighting – A mechanic for conflicts. In a nutshell, damage is capped at 1 stress per attack unless players have an advantage.

Wingman – Each PC pilot comes with an NPC Wingman/person (or persons), who aid in combat.

Relationship Cards – Each PC is tied to another PC through a relationship aspect. Clark has them written on cards.

Bot Villains that Learn – The heroes are opposed by robotic flying minions. They start off easy, but if a squadron leader is present, they will learn the skills and/or stunts the players use.

Planes – The system for PCs to start with a plane. In addition to 3 free stunts, each PC starts with 5 Refresh. However, they are required to buy a plane (most of which cost 1-4 Refresh, depending on how many bonuses it comes with).

Reaction:

First off, this was the first time I connected that the author (Clark Valentine) also wrote the brand new Sci-Fi aerial Fate world, “Tachyon Squadron”; Someday, I’ll review that too, and I’ll be itching to see what can be ported from one setting to the other.

Second, as Clark himself mentions, this could easily be a campaign for Spirit of the Century – as Spirit used Fate 2.0, this means Valkyrie might arguably be the first published “Spirit” campaign with Core rules.

Tangent: Speaking of which, I’m super excited at Shadow of the Century coming out. I plan to review that too, but my instinct is to do Spirit, Strange Tales, and Shadow all in a row, just so I can compare them.

Dogfighting – This reminds me a bit of the Swashbuckling rule from the Fate Toolkit. Personally, I’d test to see if they can be merged.

Ex. Whoever first creates an aspect on an opponent gains the Upper-hand. Only by overcoming this aspect does the current owner lose the upper hand, allowing the opponent to try and win it back. (This avoids the scenario where each side “has the advantage” on each other, which seems counter-intuitive to the story.)

Consumables – This is not a mechanic, but merely something Clark built into the game to force conflict; he made sure to remind the GM that the Zeppelin requires frequent refueling. This forces a group to avoid being too reactionary and is a great source of interaction during a campaign.

Relationship Cards – I have no major reaction, except I’m impressed Clark came up with NINE! That’s fantastic! I will steal them like the alarms are turned off. I also like how Clark gives great GM advice on how to drive minor wedges between the PCs, generally through the use of reporter NPCs and leading questions.

Encounters – As another resource, I’m really impressed by that Clark made NPC tables for encounters. On average, they appear to be a LOT bigger and tougher than my average game session (which could explain why my players beat most of my conflicts better easily – might need to up my game).

Planes – A simple system, really; it lets players differentiate their pilots and their planes from each other. Do they want a skilled pilot, a superior craft, or a balance of the two? I can easily see a similar hack for Mech suits as well.

Hacks – Nothing too major comes to mind, but a few thoughts (beyond the obvious SotC games mentioned above):

>Love and War – As a tweak, which if the zeppelin was not primarily a mobile battle station, but on a diplomatic mission? Merge it with “Romance in the Air” to feature high society ambassadors flirting with the ace pilots sworn to protect them.

>Space Zeppelins – Merge with Sail Full of Stars and enjoy steam/diesel punk aerial battles – in space! (Finally, I got to work into this week’s blog SOMEHOW).

>Mad science and heroes from history sound like a great basis for an Atomic Robo campaign / adventure.


Burn Shift

Author: Sarah J. Newton.
Editor: Matthew Bowman.
Artist: Jennifer Rodgers

Elevator Pitch: Post-apocalyptic Mad Max, except mutants can be good too. OR
How I learned to stop worrying and the love the bomb-related mutations.

Genres & Themes: Action; Adventure; Sci-Fi; Post-Apocolyptic; Survival; Transhumanism; Community; Peace vs. War; Anarchy vs. Civilization.

Summary: From the Mindjammer mind of Sarah J. Newton, a post-apocalyptic vision of the future! The Age of Space is gone, blasted to atoms in a devastation which buckled continents and boiled seas. Now the sky flickers with many-colored lightning and roiling clouds, and the air is heavy with poison. Twisted by strange energies from forms already geneered beyond natural adaptation, the remnants of posthumanity struggle to survive in the ruins of a once-glorious civilization. But for every one who succumbs to the curse of the Wounded Earth, another thrives with the Burn Shift — the new power which gives survivors an edge in this harsh and nightmarish world. Where most post-apocalyptic RPGs stop, Burn Shift starts: it’s not about wallowing in the devastation, but about pushing through it, reforming and rebuilding communities, going beyond… Whatever the future will be, it won’t be like the past.

Mechanics – Sub-System: Fate Core

Mechanics – General:

Genotype – Genotypes are basically “race” templates for quick character construction. Each come with a frame work for granting bonuses and penalties.

Burn Shifts – The name-same for the game, and after the term for a useful mutation brought about by radiation. Mutant characters can start with these, while any flesh-and-blood PC can gain them during a campaign if they suffer a severe consequence from radiation. (The book includes rules for transitioning from “wound” to “superpower.”)

Communities – Rules for representing large communities as they work with and against each other, and the PCs. These can be controlled by the GM and, to my surprise, by the players too (yeah home-team advantage). They use the same Fate Core skills as players, but they use them in a different way. Communities use the Scale rules (demonstrated in the Fate Toolkit, and reprinted here).

Equipment – A list of equipment items and extras that PCs can buy and acquire (many of them cost aspects, skills, and/or stunt slots.)

Reaction: The first things to jump out at you in the book are the stunts/extras. These powers and items are the most hackable part of the game and would port well into any superhero or fantasy game. They are so eye-catching, that it’s easy to forget what I consider the most revolutionary part of the game: the Communities.

Communities – Not only did Netwon design the communities to work at “tribe vs. tribe,” but it works on multiple scales (even asymmetric ones). Examples: Rival city-states in Eagle Eyes? A colony rebelling against its parent nation in a Sail Full of Stars? Rival gangs in Behind the Walls or The Secrets of Cats?

Tangent: Now I want to merge those last two, and have two clowders of cats warring behind prison walls.

Equipment – I missed this when I started this review, but caught it upon rereading; some of the items don’t provide a bonus, but rather a flat stat. This makes them great for NPCS. Want some Armored NPCs? The assault armor gives them stats of Good (+4) Fight, Fair (+2) Athletics, Weapon:2 and Armor: 2; just slap on an aspect or two and maybe a low Willpower, and your NPC is set!

Hacks: I already mentioned in Umdaar book itself how you can use Burn Shift as a late-campaign hack (although, you’d have to convert from Fate Core.)  Other options:

> Lots of Dystopian worlds / medium to copy: Tank Girl, Mad Max, Water World; I am Legend / Omega Man.

>Scrap the dystopian aspects, but use the Burn Shift adaptations to make a group of mutated heroes in modern day (ex. Doom Patrol; Toxic Avenger.)

>Hack for a Fall Out setting. (Extra option: Add video game elements from Save Game to have PCs be literally stuck in a game of Fall Out.)

>Personally, I think it’d be a handy foundation for a Nausicaa campaign. Alternatively, add some fun Nausicaa elements into your Burn Shift setting to take it a step away from Mad Max. Some of my favorite Nausicaa elements: Unstoppable mutant bugs; poisonous forests; no metal, only porcelain.


Wild Blue

Author:  Brian Engard.
Editor: John Adamus
Artist: Molly Ostertag.

Elevator Pitch: Superheroes in a fantasy Wild West.

Genres & Themes: Western; Superhero; Fantasy; Survival; Action / Adventure; Colonization vs. Preservation; Duty

Summary: From Bulldogs! co-author Brian Engard comes this setting of six-guns and superpowers, monsters and outlaws and keeping the peace on the frontier. It’s a dangerous world out there, but opportunities abound in the Blue Lands for those willing to help themselves. You’re one of the Queen’s Wardens, a newly inducted recruit into the land’s most elite law-enforcement team, a team made up entirely of Powers, people born with unique capabilities beyond those of the common folk. You’re a superhero, a law-bringer, a Warden. But all power comes with a cost, and being a hero is never without danger.

Mechanics – Sub-System: Fate Core

Mechanics – General:

Gear – A way of handling equipment. Players gain two simple aspects, each of which grants them a single strong resource (ex. A horse), or a collection of items lumped into a single bundle aspect (ex. A crafting kit; a camping kit).

Gift – A superpower (at start, only 1 each); these include a strength and a cost.  When appropriate, a strength can be used to automatically overcome mundane/nameless obstacles, as well as having a mechanical boost as well. A cost can be unrelated restriction on you at all times (ex. Can never tell a lie), or a strong limitation on the power itself (ex. Can only fly when rays of the sun touch you).  A gift is also an extra, which can be invoked and compelled. During campaigns, a gift can slowly be refined as your powers grow (ex. A stronger ability, but stronger cost). The book has lots of great examples!

Reaction:

If you had asked me a week ago which Fate subsystem Wild Blue used, I would have said “Fate Accelerated”;  upon rereading, I was surprised to realize that it used the Fate Core skills. I’m not sure WHY I thought it was FAE; possibly because a. the sentence structure used for gifts is similar to the same structure as Stunts in FAE, or b. the Wild Blue’s artist, Molly Ostertag, has an expressive and pleasing style not dissimilar to Claudia Cangini’s style (artist featured in the Fate Accelerated book).

That being said, the single-power format of Wild Blue WOULD lend it very well to FAE. I can easily imagine porting it over: the perfect, simple system for a younger audience, or a convention one-shot. The only flaw I see is that with only 6 approaches, it would be recommended that each PC pick a UNIQUE approach to link to their gift; if you have 3 bruisers with Forceful gifts, and 2 with Clever, it’s going to get a bit redundant very quickly. (This is where fill-in-the-blank pre-constructed characters are great).

The only concern I have with the setting is the same concern that comes with every Western: the role of the Native. In Wild Blue, the players take on the human colonizers to this magical land (in a way that parallels European society’s colonization of the American West), while the fairy-like Folk are a clear metaphor for Native Americans. Because one Folk group are antagonistic, on the surface, this can easily be seen as reinforcing the Eurocentric narrative of “Colonists good, natives evil.”

However, reading deeply into the setting will reveal the seeds of moral complexity in the piece.  So, to be clear: by all means, PLAY THIS SETTING, but I recommend either a. thinking long and hard about what stereotypes your campaign is reinforcing or subverting, or b. make your nastiest antagonists human (ex. The Sky Pirates, or an evil organization of your own creation).  The third option is c. have your players play as non-lethal, impartial mediators between the Folk and the humans, a la Princess Mononoke (which is possible, but requires the perfect group of players).

Hacks

A few ideas:

>Flip the script: PCs are young Folk, trying to prevent their parents from starting a war with the encroaching Blue Lands. Your only hope: win the trust of the noble (if not misguided) Wardens.

>If you want to keep the Wild West, but avoid casting the natives as villains, why not add a third faction: INVADING ALIENS. Splice in some of the Fate setting “Knights of Invasion” and you get a setting not unlike the movie “Cowboys and Aliens.” Maybe the Wardens can convince the Humans and the Folk to join against a common intergalactic enemy?

>While speaking of the Wild West, I wonder if this setting would work at all with Blood on the Trail (I haven’t read that one yet). Superheroes vs. Vampires in the Old West? Yes, please.

>There is a lot of overlap, thematically, with Frontier Spirit; I can easily see using the latter to put Wild Blue in space, or having Frontier Spirit ported to a fantasy Old West.

>The Gift / Cost formula adds a great flaw to any superhero setting, including Atomic Robo or Venture City.

> Similarly, the Gift/Cost set up would make Wild Blue a great foundation for a fate hack of the anime/manga series “One Piece.”. Each devil fruit power could simply be, “I get {this power), but I can’t swim.”


That’s it for this post. I was tempted to go on to “Fate World V2: Worlds in Shadow,” but I’m putting them one on the shelf for a little. Why?

Because there are so many AMAZING Fate Settings on clearance sale at the Evil Hat store at a fraction of the normal price.

*Cough* IncludingWorldsRiseUpwithMyGame *cough* 

The next few blogs will be showcasing some of these great games, and why you should grab a hard copy before they’re gone FOREVER.

Until next time, readers, Game On!

-Dave Joria

So Much Time, So Little to Do! (Scratch that, reverse it)

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It’s official: the comic group Tangent Artists now has it’s very own game blog! What can you expect here? PREVIEWS

  • Costume Clash – The mixed masquerade card game.
  • Dystopio – The card game in which players race to be the best dystopian despot.
  • Skeleton Crew: the Roleplaying Game – The supernatural comedy comic, turned into a flavorful RPG.  Powered by the Fate Core system.

BONUS MATERIAL

  • RPGee-Whiz – Add on material for the Skeleton Crew RPG and Fate Core.
  • Downloads – Character Sheets and useful Tools.

FICTION & HANDBOOKS

  • Samples of our bestselling gamer-joke books, The Handbook for Saucy Bards and The Cleric’s Guide to Smiting.
  • Sneak Peeks of our upcoming handbooks, Rogues: Steal this Booke, and The Ranger’s Guide to Not Dying in the Wild.

Stay tuned to this spot- more content each week.  Or, read the webcomics at www.tangentartists.com.